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Welcome to Alaska 2014

In the summer of 2014 the Backpack Journalism Project will travel to the town of Bethel in remote south-western Alaska. Bethel is home to the Yup’ik people, one of the largest native groups in Alaska. The region suffers from some of the worst rural poverty in the United States. This poverty is made worse by isolation, extreme temperatures in the winter, and the enormous cost of goods and services. Many of these people live without electricity or running water and rely heavily on subsistence fishing, hunting, and berry picking. All of this takes place in the context of a wild and largely intact tundra wilderness, which is currently threatened by planetary warming.

In this project we will explore themes key to the Backpack Journalism Project including the relationship of the Church to culture and the injustice of poverty. This summer we add as well the impact of climate change both on a sensitive region of the earth and on some of the world’s poorest citizens.

Class photo, Uganda 2012

For the members of the Backpack Journalism 2012 team, the past few days have been filled with cameras, video, equipment, list-making, packing (or thinking about packing) and excitement as the countdown to the departure gets closer.

One of the Backpack traditions is the class photo. With the help of JM&C department coordinator and photographer Nichole Jelinek, the team tried for serious (didn’t quite happen), reflective and silly.

Front, from left, Heidi Hoffman, Sara Gentzler, Gabby Hart; Middle, Patrick Keaveny, John O'Keefe, Chase Ehlers, Carol Zuegner, Teresa Dorsey Back, Jason Goins, Joe Garnett, Alison Prater; Upside down, Tim Guthrie

The time-out for photos comes as the team begins to delve into the theology of the African Church, more video shooting and editing and journalistic interviewing. Two more days of class and then the journey really begins.